On the UPS Hostage Slaying in Florida – Nothing Good

Broward County is not having a themselves a good PR face at the moment. From their deputy who did nothing in Parkland, their political quagmire with the Sheriff, and now their participation in what looks like a highly questionable police shoot.

This wasn’t a single officer making a bad call on his own. This was dozens of officers in the chase (over 70 last I read, from four different commands) and around twenty who actively fired on the truck where a hostage was held. Reports are saying officers approaching the truck took fire first and then returned it.

That hostage, a 27 year old who had just started on his truck, is dead. A bystander in a nearby car is also dead. And the two jewelry robbers are dead. Four dead when the number would ideally be zero, or two at most, dependant on the actions of thieves.

Yes, this started as a jewelry store theft.

Officers were seen using occupied civilian vehicles for cover against the two robbers, putting civilian bodies between them and the UPS truck. The footage doesn’t clearly show if any attempt was made to move the surrounding vehicle occupants out of the line of fire. The footage also didn’t catch the moment officers were fired upon from the truck as is claimed.

If another video captured that moment, the response from officers is more understandable, if still highly risky with the surrounding collateral.

The news helicopter footage shows the twentyish officers lighting the delivery truck up with gunfire, shooting through the paneling and killing the occupants. It isn’t known where the bystander’s position was (to me at least) when he was killed. It isn’t known if police fire or the thieves killed the UPS Driver.

We will see in the report, hopefully. From the footage, only the officers shots were visible. I don’t know why the officers decided to move so aggressively on the van when it was stuck in traffic and surrounded by occupied civilian vehicles. I don’t know what Broward County and the other involved agencies training level and procedures for a carjacking with a hostage are, but this feels unlikely to be the by-the-book or ‘proper’ intervention response.

It looks bad.

It feels like officers were overwhelmed by the situation and aggressively pursued thieves resulting in a great deal of collateral damage and two deaths. This appears, currently, to have been avoidable by just following the truck and I don’t know of a circumstance, unless the occupants were actively firing upon the vehicles around the UPS truck, where the action made sense. The giant UPS truck wasn’t getting away from GPS, a helicopter, and dozens of pursuing officers.

Do I begrudge officers safeguarding themselves with available cover? Not in the slightest. The concern is that no apparent effort is visible to move civilians. Along that same thread there doesn’t seem to be any regard for the vehicles in front of the UPS truck as rounds go ripping through it. Around 200 rounds were fired according to one report, for twentyish officers that’s not all that many per… but that is a lot of lead going unknown places once it made it through the truck. And make it through the truck it did multiple times in the news helicopter video.

Hat tip to JTTOTS for the video

The Response

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FLDE) is requesting anyone who witnessed or has video of the incident assist them in the investigation. They confirmed 19 officers were in the shootout and 13 from Miami-Dade specifically are on administrative leave right now.

The linked report says officers approaching the UPS truck were fired upon and then they returned fire.

The chain of events is still murky. Some experts are claiming officers acted appropriately in defense of the citizens around the truck and others are claiming their actions directly escalated the threat unnecessarily and put everyone around the truck at increased risk.

That which is known for certain, Frank Ordonez, 27 (the UPS driver/hostage) and Richard Cutshaw, 70 (a nearby motorist bystander) did not survive the exchange in gunfire.

You can do everything absolutely right and people can still die. That fact is an immutable.

But a lot went very badly here and we need to know how and why.

Keith Finch
Keith is the former Editor-in-Chief of GAT Marketing Agency, Inc. He got told there was a mountain of other things that needed doing, so he does those now and writes here when he can. editor@gatdaily.com A USMC Infantry Veteran and Small Arms and Artillery Technician, Keith covers the evolving training and technology from across the shooting industry. Teaching since 2009, he covers local concealed carry courses, intermediate and advanced rifle courses, handgun, red dot handgun, bullpups, AKs, and home defense courses for civilians, military client requests, and law enforcement client requests.